Ensure every vote counts

Federal MP candidate Adriana Mugnatto-Hamu introductory postcardExplaining my introductory postcard: “Ensure every vote counts by increasing voter access and implementing proportional representation.”

Grassroots democracy is one of the core Green Party principles. Citizens need to be empowered to move the direction of government, and not just at the ballot box.

However, the ballot box is a great place to start.  When people feel like they don’t have any options they like, or when they feel their vote doesn’t count anyway, they lose interest in the political process altogether.  As a result, the government becomes even less representative and alienated.  Canadian elections have drawn increasingly fewer eligible voters for years.  In the last federal election, fewer than 60% of eligible voters in Canada bothered to vote.

Proportional representation

Since the 2004 election brought in a minority government, Canadians have been living with the constant looming threat of the next election.  Our electoral system has not brought us stability — rather it has contributed to Parliamentary dysfunction by encouraging partisan sniping as parties hope to gain the tyranny of a false majority instead of working with the members that were elected.

For these reasons, Greens have supported proportional representation for many years.  All democratic systems worldwide have some form of proportional representation except for Canada, the United States and Great Britain, which retain a system of Winner Take All.  The important diversity of voices that make up Canada’s fabric are effectively silenced.

While proportional representation may take many forms, one thing it does guarantee is that in some way, the party of your choice gets additional representation because of your vote.  Proportional representation eliminates disparities that lead to the Bloc Quebecois having 49 seats with only a slightly higher vote percentage nationally than the Green Party, which has none.  Meanwhile, Alberta Conservatives cast fewer ballots than Greens nationally and gained 27 seats.  Conservative voters in Toronto and Montreal, however, failed to elect a single member.  Countries with proportional representation voting systems tend to have a more engaged electorate and higher voter turnout.

Most importantly, with four significant national parties and a regional party in play, unless we develop a way of cooperating with other parties, dysfunctional minorities are virtually guaranteed.  Proportional representation systems produce stable coalitions that can govern effectively, and because relationships with potential future coalition partners must be cultivated, they lead to more respectful dialogue in government.

Increasing voter access

Perhaps even more important than changing the electoral system, we need to stop erecting obstacles to voting for voters who want to cast a ballot.  By invoking the threat of voter fraud, which is negligible and has never been shown in Canada to affect electoral outcome, our current government has implemented rules for voter registration and identification which amplify a much more serious problem – that of disenfranchisement.  In the last federal election, when only 58% of eligible Canadian voters cast a ballot (down from a high of almost 80%), large numbers of confused voters turned up at the polls without adequate voter identification and were turned away.  Many students and new residents complained about the inability to register in their new electoral districts.  This is wrong.  The right to vote is a precious fundamental for democracy and demands protection.

I would work hard to make voting as easy and accessible as possible.

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